It’s a familiar refrain….reduce, re-use, recycle. While this may seem like the latest round of environmental lip service, FIU is taking those words to heart and meeting the call of today’s environmental challenges. For the third consecutive year, the university has enrolled in the nationwide competition known as a Recyclemania. The 10-week competition runs from February through April 2, 2011.
It began in 2001 with Ohio University and Miami University. In 2004, RecycleMania partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise program to enhance and expand the competition, and the initiative won the National Recycling Coalition’s Outstanding Recycling Innovation Award.
In 2007 competition administrative management shifted to the National Recycling Coalition. The EPA WasteWise program continues to provide key administrative and programmatic support. In 2008 RecycleMania saw the introduction of the Parallel Division system intended to promote greater “apple-to-apples” comparison by segregating the rankings between schools participating with their entire campus and those reporting data for only a subsection. It wasn’t until 2009 that all 50 states and the District of Columbia were represented. It was also the first year that RecycleMania welcomed international schools with the participation of five Canadian universities. The Parallel Division was tweaked slightly to create a “Competition” division that ranked all degree-granting colleges in North America that report data for their entire campus according to new tracking standards. All colleges and universities, including international schools, are alternately welcomed into the less formal “Benchmarking” division, where participants can unofficially compare themselves to other schools and promote the tournament on campus without the tracking and reporting requirements of the competition.
Now that you’ve got the skinny on where Recylemania has been, let’s compare these results with how FIU has done. FIU entered the benchmark division in 2009 as a pilot, since entering the competition in 2010, FIU has hit the ground running and shown that it can be a major player in this “go green” challenge. As stats go, FIU placed 7th overall in the Grand Champion division in Florida, which measures achievement in both source reduction and recycling initiatives. It placed 3rd in per capita recyclables in the state, with 12.99 lbs/person, and 2nd in the state in terms of gross tonnage of recyclable material (429,000 lbs). These are impressive results for what could have been considered a pilot program just two years ago. What is even more encouraging is that FIU has barely begun to scratch the surface of its potential. Last year’s results revealed that campus-wide, FIU is only recycling 27% of its waste. This means there is huge potential to get the recycling rate even higher. This is something FIU is going to change.
Starting this year, FIU has placed over 4000 recycling bins throughout it 3 campuses with the intention of encouraging the entire FIU community to literally pitch in. While the goal of increasing the recycling rate is definitely within reach, one suspects that taking first prize away from the rival Gators might offer an added incentive.
In order to better understand the scope and efficacy of these environmental efforts, FIU partnered with Waste Management Inc. last month to conduct an audit of all the waste generated by its 3 campuses. FIU realized that in order to correct any breakdowns in the chain of responsible waste disposal, it first had to know how much, and what kind of trash is being generated. This is a major undertaking, as one can hardly imagine the amount of waste produced by an ever-growing number of students, faculty and staff. While the results are still pending, FIU looks to use this information to better locate recycling bins, initiate new environmental programs and streamline the process of becoming a green campus. It is imperative that the development of these focused recycling efforts, along with sensible waste removal be convenient and easy. There is no better way to attract new crusaders to the noble cause of recycling than to make the process of “going green” as seamless and simple as possible. Partnering up with companies like Waste Management allows both FIU and the environment sleep a little easier, knowing that every effort is being made to reduce every Golden Panther’s carbon paw print.
The future of FIU’s sustainability efforts is well under way and it is headed down the right path of becoming the most environmentally friendly university in the state of Florida. Yet while the Office of University Sustainability and the administration may lead the way on these initiatives, it will be up to the entire FIU community to carry the torch of progress ever forward. The cause is righteous and the results speak for themselves. With a little more teamwork and a bit more effort, FIU can hold its head high as the vanguard institution that empowers a new generation of environmental warriors to fight the epidemic of over consumption and needless waste. Programs like Recyclemania are just a small step in that direction, and with everyone’s cooperation, the future looks bright indeed. Regardless of Kermit the Frog says, it is easy being green. Just give it a try.
Check here to see final results of RecycleMania 2011 after April 15.
— Tony Jonusas